Invitation-Only Public Debate

Janko Veber, the freshly minted president of the parliament today called what is known around here as a ‘public debate’, a meeting between representatives of the parliament, legal experts and general public. Topic: referendum legislation. But rather than focusing on the topic itself, which is delicate enough, Veber (SocDems) provided us with one of the most despicable, perverted and blatant displays of arrogance. Of himself, his party and the political elite he as president of the parliament represents both symbolically and in practice.

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Janko Veber (source)

Namely, six months after the people in the street made their dissatisfaction with the people who run the country plainly obvious, Veber set out to organise an “invitation only public debate”. And oh, the irony, the event was to be closed for public. After all hell broke loose, Veber opened the debate for general public, but the guest list remained unchanged. And what a list it was….

Knowingly or not, when picking the participants, Veber almost completely ignored the protest movement, inviting only Uroš Lubej. Granted, he was the first person to lend a face to the movement, but he doesn’t represent the entire movement nor did he ever claim that to be the case. On the other hand, the president of the parliament saw it fit to hand-pick the gay-bashing anti-same-sex-marriage firebrand preacher Aleš Primc who successfully shot down the family code a year ago (with a little help of the political right and the Roman Catholic Church).

And as if that wasn’t enough (for all his astroturfiness, Primc does have a legitimate interest in the issue), Janko Veber, the no. 2 person in the hierarchy of the country invited representatives of several (note the plural!) right-wing nationalist groups. These included Blaž Babič, a rabid opponent of Pahor-Kosor deal and a fervent commentator on this blog at one time, Ladislav “The singing major” Troha, a retired major of the Slovene Army and leader of a conspiracy-theory-happy movement OPS as well as Andrej Šiško of Hervardi, an openly nationalistic group, a guy who did time for attempted murder and made news when he threatened to call a referendum on Croatian NATO entry.

Now, one is tempted to say the stunt Veber pulled today was a fluke. That is was only the zillionth proof of the political elite either not having the foggiest or not giving a fuck (or both) about what sent the people of this nation to the streets. One is also tempted to say that Veber was actually only paying lip-service to the notion of “direct democracy”, using today’s event as an exuse to claim “the general public was part of the debate” down the road. And one is tempted to say the only criteria against which the guest list was composed was loudness. As in whoever made themselves heard in the past, got an invite today.

However, there is a more ugly side to this story. While we make fun of them, the likes of Primc, Šiško, Babič et consortes, representing the reactionary fringe of this society, get invited to the parliament to speak on behalf of the people. I mean, for fuck’s sake, how did we get here? Since when do these insignificunts get to be on stage, front-and-centre and have a say in, well, anything?

Since recently, as it happens. Case in point being the incident at the beginning of pengovsky-era, when the Strojans, a Roma family, were run out of village of Ambrus by an angry mob, prompting some well-aimed police brutality and a general outburst of good old racism. Sadly, this included Janko Veber, at the time mayor of Kočevje municipality, who went on live radio, calling the townsfolk to the barricades should the government attemptd to re-locate the Strojan family into the area. Not very social-democratic of him, no?

Fast forward a couple of years and then-PM Borut Pahor was trying to prevent a referendum on Croatian NATO entry, initiated by a little known “patriotic” group Hervardi. They claimed to have gathered the necessary signatures to put the ratification process on hold and possibly cause a major international embarrassment. PM Pahor went above and beyond the call of duty trying to persuade them to drop the subject. Unsuccessfully. And unsurprisingly so. Andrej Šiško was in fact paroled out of prison to meet Pahor and it was obvious from the start that a fringe group which got the attention of mainstream media will not stop doing the very thing that got it the (undeserved) attention in the first place.

So, on one hand we have a man who once lost no time in issuing a racist call to barricades and on the other we have a man who through his actions made a group of nationalist illegitimate-faced bugger-folk a part of mainstream politics. These men belong to Social Democrats, a supposedly left-wing party. Today, these men are President of the Parliament and President of the Republic, second and first person in the hierarchy of the country, respectively.

Pray to whatever god you believe in these were only shows of glaring incompetence. Otherwise we are truly fucked.

 

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National Council And The Kangler Paradox

The new National Council met today for an inaugural session and gained plenty of airtime. Mostly because soon-to-be-ex mayor of Maribor Franc Kangler was elected but immediately evicted as councilman during what was later dubbed The 1st Maribor Uprising, which started the wave of protests still sweeping the country one way or the other.


Franc Kangler leaving the National Council chambers (photo: RTVSLO)

The National Council is a weird body and pengovsky has long maintained that there would be no harm in abolishing it. Its members are elected indirectly, via electoral votes with half of them representing local interests and the other half representing various trade, labour and industrial interests. And the public sector. It is in fact a classic corporatist body where representatives of particular interests are allowed a say on matters of national (public) interest. In fact, it is a prime example of the road to hell being paved with good intentions.

The National Council is not a proper second chamber. It wields certain powers, but it doesn’t automatically have a say in the every-day legislative process. Among other things it can use a holding veto, forcing the National Assembly (the parliament proper) to re-take the vote on a certain law and it can call a referendum. As such is quickly went degenerated into a place of lobbying and back-room politicking where even representatives of trade/industrial interests take votes along the party lines or hidden agendas, depending on the issue at hand. The fact that council members can be granted immunity from prosecution only adds to the shadowy clout of the institution.

Enter Franc Kangler whose election to the council was reportedly the result of some serious political horse-trading in the Maribor region while protesters outside the Maribor City Hall pelted the building with eggs and the newly elected council member had to be escorted home by riot police. Between then and now Kangler announced his resignation as mayor of Maribor (effective 31 December) but his membership in the council seemed a fait accompli.

But in what is usually a mere formality of confirming new councilmen, members of the National Council voted to deny Kangler a seat in the body on – wait for it – moral grounds. As a result, Kangler will apparently petition the Constitutional Court to overturn the decision and allow him to start his five-year term as a member of the 40-seat sort-of-upper chamber of the Slovenian parliament.

So, what actually happened? As stated many times on this blog in the past few days, the political elite is scared. Think soiled-underpants-scared. Pengovsky has it on good authority that parliamentarians are bewildered with what is going on in the streets, they are starting to realise they have a general legitimacy problem and are slowly starting to panic. As a result, they are making rash moves, trying to save their face, hoping they’ll not have to save their skin.

This was the prime reason they denied Kangler his council membership. Trying to put a daylight between him and themselves, they singled him out as the proverbial root of all evil and attempted to evict him at the very start, thus making themselves look good. Which only proves that they still don’t get it. They do not realise that Kangler is not the cause of the troubles but rather symptom of a much deeper problem of state-capture. Contrary to common sense, the Slovenian state was not captured by the economic elite (although it often seemed so) but by its political sibling. The people have had enough of it and Franc Kangler was only the straw that broke the camel’s back.

In their rash and voluntaristic approach, the newly minted councilmen proclaimed Franc Kangler morally unfit to serve on the body. Which may even be the case, but it is not their place, neither legally nor otherwise to say so. Fact of the matter is that Kangler was elected to the position, albeit with a legitimacy problem of galactic proportions. But legitimacy (or the lack thereof) is only judged with respect to the people (i.e. this nation’s sovereign) and not with respect to fellow council members.

Just as he was forced to resign as mayor, Kangler could have been forced to resign as councilman. Media and public pressure can do the trick. He has shown his fragility on the issue earlier today where he actively avoided journos and cameras. He clearly wasn’t enjoying any of this and odds were he wouldn’t last long in the council. But in their stupidity and short-sightedness, his fellow council members presented him with the perfect tool to get away with it.

What the council did today was illegal. Council members have no authority to judge appropriateness of a fellow member once he or she has been elected. But they did it anyway. As a result, Kangler will petition the Constitutional Court which will have no option but to confirm his mandate. Thus Kangler will in all likelyhood be reinstated as a member of the National Council, ironically coming out of this mess with more legitimacy than when he entered it because his council membership will have been confirmed by the ultimate guardian of the rule of law in this country.

In effect, the National Council created a situation where the rule of law (the lack of which is one of the key issues of the protest movement) will, ironically, be strengthened with Kangler in the council rather than with him outside the council.

Omnishambles indeed.

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